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A True, Smart Cow Story

Updated on December 18, 2017
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Chris practices free writing which often produces humorous or introspective results with practical applications to living life more fully.

"This guy is taking our picture, what should we do?"/ "Smile, I guess."/ "Hay, he's using a Nikon D7000, nice DSLR."/ "He should be using a polarizing filter."/ "What are you talking about, the sun is at the wrong angle for that."/ "Oops,I forgot."
"This guy is taking our picture, what should we do?"/ "Smile, I guess."/ "Hay, he's using a Nikon D7000, nice DSLR."/ "He should be using a polarizing filter."/ "What are you talking about, the sun is at the wrong angle for that."/ "Oops,I forgot." | Source

The Generalization: Cows are Stupid

It is my opinion that the words “intelligence” and “cow” don’t belong in the same sentence. It’s an automatic "oxy-moo-ron." But there are aberrations in pretty much every field...even one in which a cow is grazing.

So the title to this article or essay really goes against how I feel about cows. It’s not that I dislike them. I actually do like cows, but I observed them for my whole childhood and teen years and have concluded that they are not very smart. I don’t really even have stories I can tell about the lack of bovine brainpower. They are just dull, mentally speaking. Instinct and habit get them by for the most part.

The Exception: The Most Intelligent Cow I've Ever Known

But there was at one time a single exception to this generalization of cows.

I grew up on an Indiana dairy farm. The particular breed was holstein. They are the black and white dairy cows, although there is the occasional red and white one which reflects the original color of the breed. But the cow I want to tell you about is of the traditional black and white variety.

Link to the first story--The Second Most Intelligent Cow I Have Ever Known


Prelude to the Main Story

This cow actually had a bit of ingenuity. At one time, for what reason I don’t recall, we were feeding the cows hay by stacking the bails around the perimeter of a flatbed hay wagon. The cows crowded around so that no more could get in to eat. I was nearby working and suddenly heard a loud clomping of split hooves on wood. When I turned and looked, the cow we are discussing had muscled her way up to the wagon and jumped up onto it. She had exclusive access to all the hay she wanted.


Necessary Background Information

To tell you of her most memorable feat of intellectual prowess, I need to describe the physical layout of our milking parlor. I happened to find a good photo of the style of milking parlor we had on the farm.

Each station where a cow was milked had a rear gate and a front gate. The rear gate was opened so the cow could walk into the station. After milking the cow, the front gate would be opened. The opening and closing of the gates was done with a lever [see photo above] which would latch into place so the animal couldn’t get away while being milked. I'm halfway done with this part. Hang in there.

At the front of each station was a feed box. The feed was kept in the upper level of the barn. An eight inch pipe went through the floor down to the feed box. We would fill the pipes with feed and the feed was put into the feed boxes with a hand crank. We would just lift the handle to the crank and pull it down two or three times to put the amount of feed in the box that we needed for each cow. Bear with me.

When we finished milking a cow, we would open the front gate and she would walk out the exit doors of the barn. Two swinging doors, like western style saloon doors would swing out as the cow walked through and then swing back after she went out. Okay, I’m done with that part. Now for the smart cow story.


Smart Cow Story

I’m sure this young cow would lie awake at night thinking of all the feed in that barn, sort of like a bank robber would lie awake thinking of all that money in the bank vault.

The cow approached the saloon style doors. This was her first obstacle. Eventually we were able to observe her in action. She would use her nose to catch an edge of one of the doors and then flip it out and open. Then she would quickly get herself wedged into the doorway and wiggle the rest of the way in.

So she was now in the parlor with the feed behind gates that were latched shut. There were four stations. Using the same technique on the station gates that she used on the barn doors, she would flip the gate until the handle came unlatched.

That done, she cleaned out the feed box. Ingenious, right? But don’t forget all that feed in the pipe coming down from the upper level of the barn. She certainly didn’t forget about it. Remember my description of the hand crank that would let the feed come down through the pipe and into the feed box? She operated it with her nose. But she didn’t simply crank it a couple of times. She discovered that if she only pulled the crank down half a turn, all the feed would empty out of the pipe into the feed box. She would routinely clean out all the feed in all four stations. At least she did until we figured out who the feed thief was.

Just in case you don't believe me, keep in mind that I could have continued the story at this point and had the cow climbing the ladder to the upstairs and refilling all the holes with feed.

One of a Kine....Kind

So there you have it. The exception to the generalization that cows are stupid animals. I'm just glad we didn't have a whole herd of cows like her. I have a feeling my family and I would have been sleeping in the barn.


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    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Deb, As far as birds go, I think you are a Dr. Doolittle, female version. This was fun to write and to recall as well. Thanks for stopping in.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      7 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I love it! People don't give animals credit where it is due. I love them al, and have always found them entertaining. Naturally, many of them like to perform for me, so that always helps.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Ruby, "That some cows are pretty smart." That might be going a bit too far. "Some" is a pretty big word. One or two maybe. haha, thanks for visiting. It's always a pleasure.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      7 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Now we know that some cows are pretty smart, i'd say, " One of a kind. " Interesting story...Enjoyed..

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Eric, she was a determined cow for sure. I'm sure she was quite let down when we put a hook and eye latch on that door. Thanks for reading.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Randy, get that story out, blow off the dust and publish it here. We'll link them up so everybody can enjoy a good laugh.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      That you laughed out loud when you read this story was music to my ears. Thanks for being here for it.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Hi Sally, I'm glad you like this one. I sure had fun writing it. Speaking of intelligence, I'm smart enough to stay completely away from your comment about you and the title to this hub. :) I'm very pleased that you enjoyed the hub.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Thanks for reading Bill. This one has been lots of fun.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      7 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Just fantastic. Fascinating. I have seen workers (human) with a whole lot less initiative.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      7 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Ha Chris, as a former cattle owner I can attest to there being a "smarter than the average cow" in every herd. I've observed a number of these sly creatures over the years. Our small herd of 50 free range cattle always had one escape artist who caused me to swear more than usual. I actually wrote a true tale about one such bovine Houdini entitled "Wild Cows Can't Be Broken." lol! Perhaps I should publish it here and we could create a serial? Enjoyed as always, Chris. :)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      Holy cow! What a great animal that was! Great story. I was looking forward to this and you didn't disappoint. I like the 'oxy-moo-ron'! This is an amusing tale well told and a tribute to that amazing animal. Just goes to show there's an exception to every rule. This made me laugh out loud. Brilliant! Ann

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      7 years ago from Norfolk


      What a lovely story - you had me hooked right from the start - first I thought you were talking about me - with that title!

      Then you told the tale in such an entertaining way - you made my day - thank you very much. Voted up and Awesome.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      As you said about my chickens, if we are open to the messages we can learn from any creature....that was, indeed, one smart cow. :)

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Becky, I've seen cows on BLM land when I was in Montana. They are very wild. Thanks for the visit and comment.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      chef-de-jour, thanks for visiting and commenting. I agree that cows can be fun loving creatures. I was in Montana for a few months recently and watched a young cow, not a calf though, running through the water sprinkling system that crossed the field. She was running and jumping like a child. Thanks for the delightful comment.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      7 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Very interesting story. I never met a cow that smart. My great uncles had a ranch, but I don't think they spent enough time with the cows to find a smart one. They were pretty much free range cows and in Northern California, it isn't cold enough to worry about them too much. They did bring them into a field closer to the ranch house, so they could keep an eye on them for the winter. During the summer, they were on BLM land.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      7 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Great story. I worked with cows for a few years on a smallholding and got to appreciate their talent for relaxation and playfulness. The calves especially were good fun. I recall one particular aberdeen angus cross who had a knack of coming really close up to you at the wall, sniffing you up as they do, then flicking its long tongue out mischievously and running off like a puppy. He did this on numerous occasions...... 'cleaning your face'. The other calves were too scared to approach humans - he was different for some reason.

      Your intelligent cow is something else.

      I loved to watch 'em on the spring run - when we let them out of the barn after they'd been cooped up for weeks overwintering. Talk about wild! Hind legs kicking up, doing circuits of 10 acre field.


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